Into the Wild Summer Festival this year was on the Bentley Estate near Lewes in East Sussex. I went to celebrate this incredible hot summer and recharge my physical, mental and emotional batteries, and it surely delivered. I’m not here to write a review of the whole thing but rather a snap shot of my experiences and how doing this kind of thing is awesome fuel for writing.
When I arrived (I don’t mean the process of ticket checking, parking, wrist bands and pitching tents, I mean that moment when you take a big deep breath and say yes I’m actually here), which for me was after a powerful Thai yoga massage from Lenka Lorien (so good I booked another one and also went to a workshop to learn something of the technique – poor Lenka was exhausted by the end and I’m not surprised). I attended a great poetry workshop about freeing the mind of fear and putting down words straight from the heart. Having learned and practised Native American Shamanism for many years it was a treat to learn more about Norse Shamanism (Seiðr) too with Linda Sever. To experience journeying on the power of the drum to one of the nine worlds in the cosmology around in the late Scandinavian ice age.
The food on offer was outstanding, my particular favourites being The Bhangra Bus for Channa Marsala and Aloo Matar, and Red Moon Roots Vegan cafe – a ton of fresh veggies, curries, courgetti, salads, stir fries – something different for your three daily feasts. The Beloved Arms cafe was my chosen spot for lemon polenta cake, gooey chocolate cake, spiced jaggery-sweet chai, and chilli hot chocolate. Such lovely people that worked so hard, always with a welcoming smile. Sitting in their teepee on skins and brightly patterned mats, with the central fire taking the damp off the morning, smoke lightly drifting upwards, warm breeze from the field and the soothing sounds outside was quite heavenly. It’s a difficult noise to explain because in words it’s hard to believe why it should be attractive to the ear. Murmuring voices, wind in the surrounding trees, babies crying, a steady drum beat punctuated with laughter. It’s an ancient community sound that is very deep in our bones and brings a sense of belonging even in these modern times of hermetically sealed houses, and solitary pursuits. I read in that cafe, and wrote, chatted to people who came and went, sometimes all squeezed in together sheltering from a shower of rain. Two girls who practised aerial yoga, a woman who explained why her head got attached to the catches on people’s bags (a magnetic cochlear implant to aid her hearing loss after suffering meningitis as a child), an Indian woman whose husband had gone to collect their two-year-old from the lost children area – again, a couple explaining the meaning behind their tattoos, a man relieved that his shoulder pain had finally gone. The list is endless – at festivals people change, they don’t mind literally rubbing shoulders with strangers, sharing a mouthful of cake, sitting back to back – inhibitions are left in our empty cars. This was my first festival without children so I actually enjoyed watching them tumbling in the grass, hurling straw from broken bale seats over each other’s heads, let loose to romp with blackened feet, grubby hands and luminous smiles.
A couple of sessions of strong Kundalini yoga (taught, not by the scheduled teacher who didn’t arrive, but by an amazing woman who just stood up and took over so as not to disappoint 100-odd people spilling out of the yoga retreat onto the grass), and a few types of ecstatic dance had me feeling beautifully fluid and agile. Even learned some new hula hooping skills beneath the fluttering prayer flags. But for me the highlight of the festival was The John Langan Band. A Glaswegian trio with guitar, violin, double bass, and powerful voices, a little Jethro Tull-esque in their erratic, beautifully deranged playing. An eclectic mix of folk sounds – Celtic, Gypsy, Balkan, flamenco. A strange and delicious feverishness to their performance. I danced like a demon until I thought I might fall over out of pure exhausted bliss (far more ecstatic than the ecstatic dance lol, but maybe that’s just because it’s exactly the kind of music that echoes through my own personal being).
So if you need to feed your body with delicious, nutrient-rich food, awaken your heart with manic dance, stretch and then rest until your bones become liquid, push your mental boundaries, reconnect with nature and community and have experiences that make you want to go home and create – then my friends, go to an Into the Wild festival.